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GS1 Expects Tagged-Item Performance Protocol Guideline to Boost RFID Adoption

The new guideline assigns grades to EPC UHF RFID tag specifications so that a supplier can tag its products with an RFID label that meets all the needs of retailers selling those products in their stores.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 08, 2015

Standards group GS1 US has released its Tagged-Item Performance Protocol (TIPP), a guideline that includes a scale for grading the performance of EPC ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags when used on specific products and in specific environments, as well standardizing the testing conducted to identify that grade. The TIPP guideline—a set of four documents developed by GS1 US's Item Level RFID Workgroup—is intended to make it easier for both retailers and suppliers to test and identify the best tag for use with each product and use case. That, predicts Melanie Nuce, GS1 US's VP of apparel and general merchandise, could pave the way for more universal adoption of item-level RFID tagging of apparel and other goods.

The series consists of the following four documents: TIPP Tagged-Item Grading: Overview provides an overview of the tagged-item grading guideline. TIPP Tagged-Item Grading: Grade Definitions defines the eight total grade specifications. TIPP Tagged-Item Grading: Testing Methodology presents the test procedure and measurement methods to qualify or establish the grade for a tagged item. And TIPP Tagged-Item Grading Testing Configurations defines the orientation for various types of tagged items (which is critical for repeatable testing using the TIPP procedure).

To determine a tag's grade, the ARC lab test setup used four reader antennas, each positioned at a different orientation in respect to the testing platform.
Until now, with no specific standard in place, each retailer has tended to work with its preferred tag and inlay vendors, typically offering several options of specific tag makes and models to the suppliers who tag the products that a retailer buys. The problem with such a system, Nuce explains, is that suppliers sell their products to multiple retailers, each of which has its own favored tag brands. As a result, a supplier may be applying a variety of different tags to its products, depending on the specific retailer receiving those items.

"Tagging at the source helps retailers and suppliers drive true inventory accuracy and visibility to meet the consumer omni-channel promise," says Bebe Purcell, a co-chair of the TIPP workgroup and a senior analyst at VF Corp., which owns such brands as Lee and Wrangler. "But up until now, suppliers have been challenged with inventory segmentation—as RFID's performance requirements have been unique from retailer to retailer. With no best practices in place, suppliers have been subjected to undue operational costs and constraints. The TIPP guideline helps alleviate these supplier constrictions by offering the retail sector a methodology to consistently define, test and verify the performance level of EPC-enabled RFID tags."

The guideline also helps retailers share the results of their testing with others in the industry. In the past, each retailer typically conducted its own testing of tags and readers for its own needs—which, in many cases, has led to duplicative efforts among the many retailers, suppliers and logistics companies that wished to track goods via RFID.

TIPP offers a voluntary standardized system in the form of testing methodology and configurations, as well as grade definitions. If a retailer finds that it requires certain tag-performance specifications for each product, based on the environment in which that product is being read, it can identify a grade (such as Grade S20B) that is assigned to those specifications, and share that information with the supplier, which will then have option to select any tag that meets that grade's requirements. A list of tags that meet each grade can be found at the ARC website, operated by the Auburn University RFID Lab.

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